Good to see you again, Mr. Germ
Growing up in Hartselle we regularly encountered a young man with a mental disability who had a special greeting. It became famous around town.
He threw up two fingers in the hippie peace sign.
"Piece," he shouted, "of Kentucky Fried Chicken."
Everybody laughed and he seemed to love the attention.
Sure, it was corny, but you didn't feel properly greeted by him unless you heard the peace joke.
Speaking as an amateur germaphobic, I wouldn't mind seeing the peace sign replace handshaking as the great American greeting.
"Shaking hands supposedly began as a way to show that you didn't have a weapon in your hands," Paul Farhi wrote recently for The Washington Post. "As it turns out, we do have a weapon in our hands: the flu virus."
Viruses can live for up to two hours on hands, doorknobs, railings and computer keyboards.
My hands are usually cracked and dried by the time winter ends because I wash them so much.
This year, as usual, it did no good. I'm fighting the crud, which started in my throat, moved into my nose and will predictably end in my chest.
I wonder if I caught it by shaking hands.
More and more people supposedly are avoiding the friendly form of welcome this year after the shortage of flu vaccine.
But it still seems the custom continues without end at church, at work and in social settings. It's automatic. We do it without thinking about where that other hand has been.
How should you respond if someone extends a hand? How do keep from insulting a person who is just trying to be friendly?
According to Farhi, one Catholic diocese told parishioners they could smile, bow or wave instead of shaking hands during Mass.
Meanwhile, Protestants are wandering in a handshaking wilderness, waiting on some direction from the church hierarchy.
Some options include thumping each other's ears, giving a friendly fist to the upper arm, rubbing elbows, wearing gloves or forming an imaginary pistol with our hands and shooting each other.
Maybe we could greet each other like a third-base coach signaling a runner at second.
If you're sick, you could easily decline to shake hands and explain why.
Or you could always throw up the hippie sign and shout, "Piece ... of Kentucky Fried Chicken."
People may look at you funny, but they'll probably forget all about shaking hands.